Archive for July, 2009

An ode to Ardy and Ed’s, kinda

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I blog today in praise of the ice cream and hamburger joint in Oshkosh known as Ardy and Ed’s. It is to the body’s circulatory system what concrete is to the builder, yet it is an essential risk. A root beer float shoveled between the lips near Lake Winnebago is the same as cabernet savignon sipped in Napa Valley. I take pills to fight what Ardy and Ed serve, and yet I return again and again. Drivers passing by get high cholesterol just from breathing the air, even when speeding. Fry my burger in a river of grease, Ardy. Pour me a bucket of root beer, Ed. Roto-Rooter will clear my veins.

CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE (Photo by Alton K. Marsh)

What’s new at OSH?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The editorial team has been so busy at Oshkosh this year we haven’t even had time to blog. But now that I’m back in the security of the office, I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about what’s new and interesting at the show.

Without a doubt, the A380 and WhiteKnightTwo are the draws this year. Garmin has yet more new products, the OEMs are generally happy and optimistic, and technological innovation is continuing to transform flying. But none of that matters when you get to see the world’s largest airliner and the future of space travel fly on the same day in the same place. I feel very fortunate to have been there. The A380 will be old news in a few years, but seeing that behemoth fly slowly by the crowd was simply incredible. But watching WhiteKnightTwo was, for me, infinitely better. I feel like it was a moment I’ll get to tell my grand kids about–the first time I saw the future of space travel. What’s most amazing to me is not that Rutan and his crew have built this incredible airplane, but that we all believe they will really succeed in this adventure. It’s practically a foregone conclusion at this point. Imagine relatively normal (I say relatively because certainly most people will never be able to afford it) people going into space as tourists. It’s the stuff of science fiction and we’re going to see it in the near future. Incredible.

Otherwise, there’s lots of new stuff going on at the AOPA tent, including a P-51 from The Horsemen on display, and some cool new outfitters, including one guy who’s making beautiful vintage aviation clothing. All in all, it’s a great year for OSH.

Waiting patiently ….

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Well, the bill of sale and the “flying wire” have been recorded, the logs look good, the flight checks were flawless, and everything checks out on the equipment lists. The Phenoms–now transformed into N610AS and N620AS per the new U. S. registration–are sitting on the delivery center floor now. I can see them from my office on the third floor, which has internet access and Phenom checklists, flow charts, etc.

We’re waiting for the Brazilian certification authorities to show up. The Brazilians check to see if the Phenoms comply with FAA Type Certificate specs. They’re empowered to do this by a reciprocal agreement with the US.

But it’s the waiting that’s killing us. When these guys show up, the mood changes. A cordon goes up around the airplanes, and NO ONE can go near the inspectors or the airplanes. It usually takes them four hours per airplane to do the job….but there are “horror” (use Colonel Kurtz voice from “Apocalypse Now”) stories of 8-hour inspections, complete with re-wirings, etc.

After that, it’s STILL not over. You don’t just blast off in an N-registered airplane with your FAA pilot certificate. That’s illegal in Brazil–unless you have an overflight permit. Which is also in the works.

Bottom line: this should all be done by tomorrow morning. By then the rest of the crew will certainly have recovered from last night’s exotic adventures, and we’ll be legal for our trip back. Try about mid-day. I’ll be in N610AS. Stops are still set for Brasilia, Belem, Port of Spain Trinidad, and FLL. Does Flightaware work in South America? I dunno……….

Soon, it will be time for lunch in the company cafeteria. Very civilized here at Embraer.

Odd man out, in Brazil

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

First time in years and years that I’ve missed Oshkosh/AirVenture. Instead, I’m down in Brazil going through the acceptance process for two spanking-new Phenom 100s. The good news: the engine SNs match those in the equipment list…. no real bad news, tho. Except for the 65 squawks on the paint job of SN 44 (Soon to be N610AS). Most so minor you’d need a magnifying glass to see ’em. But as one customer said, “It’s only brand-new once, so let’s get it right.”

40 years ago today

Monday, July 20th, 2009

What were you doing 40 years ago today? Those of you who know me know I’m not the Mike Collins who orbited the moon as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took mankind’s first steps on the lunar surface. But I certainly was among those watching the black-and-white images of those historic steps dance across the tiny screen of a black-and-white television.

It was my pleasure, however, to meet that Mike Collins one cold December on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, at the annual commemoration of the Wright Brothers’ first flights. Collins was a guest of the First Flight Society, which established the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Brothers National Memorial; the Apollo 11 crew is among its honorees. I introduced myself and we talked for 20 minutes about other people who were trying to capitalize on our good name. 

Those original videos of the first moonwalk have been enhanced and can be seen on the NASA Web site, along with other interesting links the agency has collected that relate to Apollo 11 and its anniversary. Check them out.

Moon talk released by NASA

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Where were you when Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon? I was standing on a street corner watching a television set operated by a newspaper vendor in Evanston, Ill., home to Northwestern University where I was starting work on a master’s degree in journalism. I missed the big one, Apollo 11, as a reporter for what is now called Florida Today (I think it was cooler when it was just named Today), but got to cover Apollo missions 14, 15, and 16 from Florida, and for Apollo 16, also from Houston. NASA has digitized previously released tapes of what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin said to one another while in the lunar module, the spidey-looking vehicle that landed on the moon. Check it out here.

Remembering the Kennedy accident

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I returned home from a few early Saturday morning errands to find a panicked message on my home answering machine. It was July 17, 1999–you remember the days before PDAs and text messages when we were out of touch for sometimes hours at a time. Anyhow, the message was from a media contact at Piper Aircraft who said the company needed help from AOPA. They were being hammered by the media because of the John F. Kennedy Jr. accident. Could we help?


Clueless as usual, I turned on the television to find that apparently everyone but I knew that young Kennedy was missing; his Piper Saratoga last heard from near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the night before. Thus began what turned out to be a very busy day full of media speculation.

To assist Piper, I tracked down AOPA’s media relations contacts at the time, Warren Morningstar and Drew Steketee. They both were already in the loop (they had pagers–you remember those). I put the two in touch with Piper. The media was starting to question the safety record of the venerable PA-32 and was looking for an independent source of safety information, such as the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. The PA-32 then and now has a fine safety record and the notion that the airplane was at fault quickly went away.

The July 1999 issue of AOPA Pilot happened to have a new Saratoga on the cover, which wasn’t lost on some resourceful reporters for major magazines and newspapers who quickly found my home number and started calling for insights into the airplane. Although I didn’t write that particular article, I did have several hundred hours in the trusty Saratoga. Before I was willing to share any comments I made sure I had a long enough conversation with the reporter to make sure that I felt he was truly looking for insights as opposed to seeking someone to support his own agenda. Most were quite reasonable and could be convinced not to speculate about the cause–especially since at that point they hadn’t even found the bodies of Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law.

The next day, a Sunday, I found myself in a Kennedy-esque sort of situation. I was flying northeast from Frederick, Maryland, to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to look at an F33 Bonanza that I was considering buying. It was a typical Mid-Atlantic sort of summer morning–hazy, hot, and humid. There were a few scattered cumulus clouds around, but they were mostly masked by the haze. Knowing the region well, I launched VFR but soon regretted the decision. It was technically VFR, but the haze was incredibly thick–even by our usual standards. Even in daylight, I was relying mostly on the instruments, happy to have a solid autopilot in the A36 Bonanza I was flying. By my late-morning return to Frederick, the conditions were even worse, but I had wised up enough to file IFR. I couldn’t imagine flying in such conditions at night and over water with no horizon–especially without an instrument rating. What was Junior thinking?

As AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg pointed out a year later in our Landmark Accident report, the NTSB determined the accident was the result of spatial disorientation caused by the haze at night and the young pilot’s relative inexperience in flying in such conditions.

In his blog this week, Landsberg reminds us that having a Plan B is the best strategy when you think you might be headed into a situation that is more than you can handle. Equally as important is a willingness to execute Plan B, which can sometimes mean telling naive passengers that you’re driving this evening or staying home, as disappointing as that may be. Better to be stuck at home than the subject of an NTSB report and on the receiving end of a lot of media speculation.

Flying on vacation: Why the heck not?

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Ever since I blogged about grabbing a CFI while in Juneau, Alaska, last year, I’ve heard from lots of pilots who incorporate flying into their family vacations. And why not? Chances are there’s a nice little airport (and an FBO) not far from where you plan to play. And when you think about how much it costs to rent a Jet-Ski or a boat, take a fancy whale-watching tour, or any of the zillion other amusements you’re gonna drop your cold hard cash on, hiring a CFI and an airplane for an hour seems downright reasonable. Most recently George Janssen e-mailed to say that he got checked out in a Remos LSA while on vacation in Florida. Janssen, who lives in Connecticut and owns a Cessna 150, gave a thumbs-up to the experience and the service he got from Jim and Karen Walker at Skywalker Aviation in Lantana. “it was an outstanding experience on a beautiful summer morning,” he says.

Do you plan to fly on vacation? Have you already done so? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.   

You’ve gotta see this video

Monday, July 13th, 2009

United Airlines was very mean to a country and western band’s $3,500 Taylor guitar and broke the top of the neck off. The band quietly delt with the airline for a year and fought back the only way it knew how. Take a listen.

Almost as good as the real thing?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

If you can’t afford a Waco (or a fighter jet, or an SR71 Blackbird) of your own, is a giant poster that hangs on your garage door almost as good? The folks at* seem to think so. After you fork over 169 Euros (roughly $235 at today’s exchange rates), please check in and let us know. By the way, the aforementioned jet is the top seller.

*Thanks and a tip of the AOPA ballcap to Aeromot on the AOPA Forums.